Well, the rain and wind decided to sit out the first few miles of today's final leg and walkers make the most of it. As we left Camp this morning there was an anxious buzz in the air. We enjoyed the dry ground and glimpse of sun trying to break through the clouds - but we knew it was only a matter of time. You could just feel it.
Making our way through the first pit stop around Mission Bay with SeaWorld and the great white tent that had served as our dining hall these past few days in the far distance over the water - the skies decided to do a repeat performance. No sooner had we picked up a graham cracker/peanut butter and jam sandwich (perfect 3 Day food!) and a few red vines to go - than the first few drops started to fall. Like many walkers, I accepted a bright yellow plastic rain poncho from a Komen volunteer before setting out once again. That poncho proved to be life-saver. As the winds picked up and the rain became quite heavy, we at least had that little bit of dry warmth that allowed us to keep going.
By the time we made it to Old Town the big hill that takes us toward Hillcrest and Balboa Park had become a bit of a waterfall and the only way to keep going was to slosh through it. Wet feet! It's a rotten feeling when the rest of you is pretty much drenched and the temperatures aren't exactly friendly. But it was the final leg of a 60 miles journey that had already been more challenging than ever and soaked socks weren't going to prevent us from making it. We climbed that hill with determination, humor and encouragement from a wonderful crowd of supporters offering us everything from jelly beans to chocolates to sample sized cups of pink beer. A huge thanks to the ladies at the foot of the hill who had set up a mini buffet to serve slices of bean and cheese burritos to the hungry walkers... what a treat!
Lunch was moved this year because the park where it's usually held was flooded. No surprise, really. By the time we got to Balboa Park, where the meal was being stage, many walkers, myself included, had just decided to trudge on. The thought of really the finish seemed too good to be true and we were now so close.
Making out way down the final blocks through the streets of downtown San Diego - we got a spring in our steps. And, as if to say "okay, you win!", Mother Nature backed off and the skies started to brighten - not a rain drop in sight. As a final act of victory before the home stretch, we put took off our bright yellow rain ponchos and stuffed them into recycling bins. It felt good. But the real reward was just down the street. With Petco now in view I realized how sore my feet and muscles actually were - and was overcome with a sense of relief and gratitude. We had done.
There, at the finish line, was my ultimate reward. My children were waiting and as soon as they saw me they made there way through the crowd and greeted me with hugs and kisses. I looked a little further and spotted my husband, who was holding a back-pack full of dry clothes. Could it get any better? But before I headed for higher ground I had one final celebration to enjoy. I made my way through the gates of the park, got my 3 Day Walker ID scanned one final time and - a part I truly savor - picked up my 3 Day t-shirt. I looked at it, smiled, pressed it against my face and was overcome with emotion for a few seconds. Who knew my 7th time completing this trek with catch me off guard like that? But it did. I'm sure I'm not alone. It was a tough walk this year but there something about that wind and rain that made completing it that much more awesome and there's nothing about it that I take for granted.
Thank-you to everyone who took part. The walkers were resilient, the volunteers amazing and the crowds who came out to cheer us on were the ultimate fuel. We did it!